Dan Starr: ‘Naked opposition’ – and there’s the problem writ large

Anyone who has experienced an Uttlesford District Council debate about any serious matter will have come away from it disappointed in the local politicians. I have often. Like a classroom full of naughty school children, they trade insults, squabble and seem to enjoy having a go at each other rather than knuckle down and get things done together.

One word says it all; “opposition”. It is rarely used by those parties not in power, but often by those that hold the majority. They use it to say “were in power, you’re not.” They use it because they believe that to maintain their power they have to oppose anything that they didn’t invent.  But it is a concrete mind-set that always acts as a barrier to greatness.

Great leaders instinctively work with others; they actively find ways to include other ideas. Unless you are able to see the point-of-view of others, you are the Emperor who is last to know you have no clothes.

And so it came to pass. Last December the UDC Leadership was found naked holding a Local Plan. Apparently it was a great plan to be ‘proud’ of – except it wasn’t, because all those that could see it wasn’t great were ignored because they were in opposition.

In the fairy tale you would have thought that after being found naked, the Emperor would have consulted more widely before putting on his next new clothes – he’d be a fool not to. We’ll never know because the fairy tale ends before that.

But back in Uttlesford, we do have a next chapter. The plan was resoundingly refused – not suspended while it was fixed, but refused. And major modifications are required before it can even be considered again. It is an ex-plan. It’s not resting, it’s dead.

One of the key reasons for refusal was that UDC failed to properly cooperate with others.

So now should be the time for a real change; time to cooperate and bring all the disparate groups together to create a new plan that harnesses all of the talents that are invested in the future of where they live. Instead it’s back to the discredited local party politics of old – stuck in concrete and opposed to anything they didn’t invent. In a press release the Tory UDC leadership has announced that it “welcomes opposition members” to get involved.  Getting involved is a good thing, but the fact that the first words out of their mouths are ‘opposition’ means that our Tory rulers don’t get cooperation. They could have said “welcome other parties” or “welcome broader engagement”. But they didn’t. The first words that sprang to mind was ‘opposition’. It’s in their DNA.

Instead of learning lessons after being found naked, they have retrenched, keep saying the plan is ‘mainly ok’, inserted their leader to run the revised working group, and called anyone who isn’t true blue part of the ‘opposition’.  Meanwhile their tailor is weaving new a plan.

It feels like the next chapter of the Emperor’s New Clothes is about to be written.

But it’s time for a change. We pay for our council and they work for us. Residents don’t want national parties with their backroom whipping and talk of ‘opposition’.  Residents need well supported and smart solutions to the big problems we have. They can’t face the embarrassment of their Council being found naked again.

The politics of old is so clearly ingrained they some people cannot and will not change – they are stuck in the concrete. But as residents we can work together to secure district-wide change. I urge you to vote for your local Residents-for-Uttlesford candidate in May to secure a change for a better, smarter, and more inclusive local government that is by residents, for residents.